Structural changes in the landscape of Spanish distance universities

Daniel Domínguez Figaredo, José Francisco Alvarez Alvarez


The main national distance learning universities were launched before the emergence of the Internet. In order to adapt to digital connectivity, these universities had to modify their organizational and methodological procedures. But in recent years important changes have emerged in the field of educational technology, and this has significantly altered the higher education sector.

This work analyzed the recent updates that distance-learning universities in Spain have undertaken in order to adapt to the current higher education landscape. The evolution of enrolment rates in distance universities in Spain in the period 2003–2017 was taken as a reference. Based on the available data, the factors that explain the enrolment gap between types of entities are analyzed and key actions for the evolution of distance learning universities in Spain are suggested. This provides an evidence-based approach that aims to contribute to the reflection of academics, institutional managers and policy makers who are called upon to reorient the strategy of distance universities to make them sustainable in the medium and long term in the new landscape.


Distance universities, higher education, educational policy, lifelong learning, digital shift, digital governance, Spain

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